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Garlic can be ornamental as well as tasty

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Photos courtesy of Donna Williamson.

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In the old days, I used to separate garlic cloves purchased from the supermarket and plant them in my garden. I wasn’t careful about where I planted them, not necessarily giving them the good drainage they needed year-round.

They never did very well. Then I made my first trip to Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, Pa. At that time, Chris Woods was director, and I was stunned by his vision and technique. I had never seen such a beautiful and skillfully designed garden. And he used garlic as an ornamental!

Chris put plants in delightful combinations or used them in interesting new ways. He developed a colchicum lawn with a magenta Adirondack chair for a fall display of that beautiful waterlily-like bulb that was breathtaking. He planted a gravel bed with butterfly weed (), winecups (), and ‘Atom.'

So when he planted a garden with lavender ‘Colchester White’ centaurea, and a swirly-headed garlic, I knew I was in a new world of gardening. My friend Karen and I talked with Chris at length about his work at Chanticleer and at harvest time, he generously sent us some garlic.

Ever since, I have been growing what I think is the hard-neck ‘Rocambole’ garlic (in my mind it’s the ‘Chanticleer’ garlic) in my garden and in the gardens of my willing design clients.

Often I plant the garlic as a counterpoint among mounding perennials or in grasses like Mexican feather grass (), a cool-season grower with incredibly thin leaves – soft and full of movement. It goes into the rose bed to annoy the deer, and sometimes I like it with one of the dwarf catmints, perhaps ‘Select Blue’ or ‘Little Titch.'

The garlic emerges early in spring and develops a fantastic double swirling stem or scape for the flower bud. It looks like a swan in the garden. (.)

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